A marketing morass. This is how the prevailing persistent situation of livestock marketing in most communal areas of the country can aptly and shortly be described.
Your columnist have been writing time and again about the marketing conundrum that especially communal livestock producers have been experiencing dating back to colonial times. With little to zero improvement. Many a times the blame, and rightfully so have been laid at the door of auctioneers, who have formed unofficial syndicates thereby depressing livestock prices by determining such prices at will and whim rather the market forces doing this. At the sharp end of this are communal producers (farmers), a euphemism this day for previously disadvantaged communal farmers in crowded communal land, which are increasingly becoming agricultural backwaters, if not cattle herding backwaters.
Because of the current marketing system, communal producers have literally been hostages of their own production, with their power as producers non-existent and yet to be realised and tapped, if ever they would be so realised and tapped with the producers thus starting to flex their muscles. “Not that producers are without any blemish in their own continued exploitation. And their farmers associations as much, which seem to have been doing little or nothing in the face of the continued exploitation of their members,” this columnist wrote not long ago. This reality and state of affairs do non only ring true still but supreme as well as has transpired lately in the Okakarara Constituency where one of the farmers association was forced to cancel livestock marketing because the buyer, of course the usual suspect, backtracked. This is understandably after some pressure from another farmers association envious of the good prices the buyer was prepared to offer while before that he did not offer them similar prices. It is again reawakening how prices may fluctuate from one auction/permit to another only a days apart and not weeks. But this once testifies to the fact that prices are most of the time not necessarily determined by the market forces, meaning by the law of supply and demand, but that buyers usually in connivance with one another, fix livestock prices at will and whim. As much farmers, especially associations, like in the latest case of the Okakarara Constituency, seem to be their own worst enemies with various associations in place in any given communal area thus competing against one another, even to the point of undercutting one another just to be able to get buyers, even when any buyer may not offer the producers any competitive prices or value for their produce, which is their livestock. What matters in this age and era to some farmers associations, be their co-operatives or whatever, is to secure any buyer and thereby acquiring the attendant commission which to most of these middlemen and women, has become a treasured lifeline. More so given the prevailing economic down slow or even recession if you wish with those in the communal areas with little or any meaningful wherewithal. Many a times it has not been clear how such commissions have been applied by the respective and various associations and co-operatives, and to what extent farmers/producers have been benefitting? The country is currently starring what could be the worst drought in years but one has as yet to hear one or the other association and co-operatives coming to the assistance of the farmers in one way or the other. This cannot but let this columnist conclude however meagre the commissions are and have been, they have been of little, if any significance at all, to farmers/producers they are meant to help, especially in time of dire need such as the drought the country is currently facing. Of what use the commissions have been and to who only the associations and cooperatives can explain.
It would be unfair, however, to comb all the associations and cooperatives with the same comb because towards the end of last year one could hear the efforts of the likes of Ndangi Nderura from the Aminuis Constituency who was last year reported to be taking lucerne to farmers selling it at lower rate. Whether this was an individual effort one cannot tell. Similarly the traditional councilor for Okakakara, Barman Kaangundue, was reported last December helping farmers with lucerne at no cost. Again whether this was individual or through either his traditional authority or farmers association it has not been clear. But these two seemed to have been isolated efforts and an exception to the rule. The rule being that associations and cooperatives, in tis hour of need, have been seeming conspicuous in their absence.
But the lack of cooperation between associations and cooperatives, to the detriment of farmers and producers, have long been known.